Tiffany - Part II
Suppose you could step backwards in time for a day with a bag full of money to attend an auction. One place I'd like to visit is the September, 1946, Park-Bernet Galleries public sale of paintings, antiquities and decorations belonging to the insolvent Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. The articles were removed from the Laurelton Hall mansion in Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. Tiffany built Laurelton Hall on a 580 acre estate in his heyday, between 1902 and 1904. He furnished it with antiques and the finest Art Nouveau decorative objects from all over the world, including many of his own masterpieces. In 1918, he endowed it to a foundation so that young artists could practice their craft in an atmosphere of aspiration and beauty. The sale took five days to conclude. The oriental rugs, Roman glass, and antique furniture brought good money for its time.
One class of objects bombed, however - Tiffany's own masterworks. 372 of his studio's finest hand-crafted examples of jewelry, tiles, textiles, wall paper rolls, enamelware, mosaics, paintings, pottery, metalwork, lamps, free-blown art glass, and masterful stained glass windows sold for a total of less than $10,000. The highest price achieved was $275 for a six foot wide leaded glass ceiling lamp that would bring in excess of a million dollars today. Louis Comfort Tiffany was a forgotten man at the time. "Modern art" had trampled the merchant son turned artist and his brethren. His art was labeled by experts of the day as tawdry and much of it was discarded in the two decades following his death in relatively obscurity in 1933. How times change.
As a rule of thumb, anything with age marked "Tiffany & Co.," the esteemed jewelry and fine art store begun in the mid-19th century New York City by goldsmith and genius merchant father, Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812-1902), or "Tiffany Studios" the famed craftshop first established in 1876 as "Louis C. Tiffany & Associated Artists" by the equally gifted artistic son, is highly valued today. This is because the father never sold anything but objects of the highest quality and the son was equally demanding of the hundreds of artisans under his employ.
Genuine Tiffany glass is almost always marked "L.C.T. Favrile," or "L.C. Tiffany" or "L.C.T.," or "Favrile." Tiffany coined the name "Favrile" to designate his handmade glass and other products. Some larger pieces bear Louis Comfort Tiffany's name in full. Some are inscribed with a reference number like "LCT T1510." Tiffany's bronze metalwork and lamp bases are normally stamped "Tiffany Studios New York," and most are numbered. Pieces marked "A-Coll.," were designated for Tiffany's personal collection and can have significant value. Tiffany signatures were applied by his artists and are therefore non-standard and easy to fake. Collectors should develop and eye for his studio's distinctive style. Tiffany's "lava" glass took iridescence to new heights.
The organic design of his flower form blown glass vases are the pinnacle of achievement in Art Nouveau design. His valuable lamps are composed of a bronze base that complements the fiery, streaky, multi-colored, glass shades, with individual pieces of glass set with lead in a bronze framework. His non-leaded lamps often take on a pond lily design highlighted with Favrile glass flowerhead shades.
Valuable Tiffany Studio and Tiffany & Company antiques can still discovered today. When looking for a signature, remember that the most important marks to consider are striking design and quality.